Sunday, December 30, 2012

A Place for All

Luke 2: 41-52
What adult among us today has not come into contact with a twelve year old?  After all, we were one once ourselves, right?  So we know that being twelve produces all sorts of different thoughts, anxieties, moods, hormones….  It’s an eclectic and confusing time to say the least. 

As I remember back to that age; make up, boys, and The Beatles were occupying a lot of space in my mind.  And, you would have found me at church since my parents were faithful church going people.  But my reasons for going would have been different than theirs.  I wanted to go so that I could be with my like-minded friend Carol who also cared deeply for make up, boys, and The Beatles.  Church was the place to be in our little world.

So I always find it humorous that, when in the lectionary, we go from the sweet and powerful Christmas story of Jesus’ birth, and imagining him as an infant to the portion of scripture this week where Jesus has grown older, a pre-teen the penultimate before teen-ager-hood.  How time flies! 

But children do that, they grow up in an instant. 

Now he’s a boy, 12 years old.  Knowing Jesus it is doubtful that he would have been seeking out his friends at the temple in Jerusalem to talk about shaving, girls, and the hottest Klezmer band.  He is approaching a very special age in the life of a Jewish boy; Bar Mitzvah age, the age of reason, where now, under Jewish law, he is to study scripture. A greater responsibility is expected of him. 
Let us open the scriptures today from the Gospel of Luke, the 2nd chapter.

Every year Jesus' parents went to Jerusalem for Passover. And when Jesus was twelve years old, they all went there as usual for the celebration. After Passover his parents left, but they did not know that Jesus had stayed on in the city. They thought he was traveling with some other people, and they went a whole day before they started looking for him. When they could not find him with their relatives and friends, they went back to Jerusalem and started looking for him there.

Three days later they found Jesus sitting in the temple, listening to the teachers and asking them questions. Everyone who heard him was surprised at how much he knew and at the answers he gave.

When his parents found him, they were amazed. His mother said, “Son, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been very worried, and we have been searching for you!”

Jesus answered, “Why did you have to look for me? Didn’t you know that I would be in my Father’s house?” But they did not understand what he meant.
Jesus went back to Nazareth with his parents and obeyed them. His mother kept on thinking about all that had happened.

Jesus became wise, and he grew strong. God was pleased with him and so were the people.  (Contemporary English Version)

Well, you know how twelve year olds can be.  On one hand Jesus shows us that he is fully 12 years old by, his smart-aleck remark to Mary, ‘Why are you looking for me?  Didn’t you know that I’d be here?’  That, ‘In my house’ remark would have been considered ‘back talk’ which was forbidden by ‘the stare’ from my mother.  And Joseph probably would have been a bit perturbed by now hearing about Jesus’ other father’s house, like what is Joseph, chopped liver?

Mary and Joseph just didn’t understand what he was saying, they didn’t make the connection between the divine mystery of Jesus’ birth twelve years prior and the day to day tasks of raising a boy in the first century.  Teens are teens.  So Jesus obeyed them and they all went back to Nazareth.  Mary kept thinking about this, Jesus got older and wiser and we are told that God was really happy with the divine Son that day in the Temple. 

Fast forward and the next we hear of Jesus at his baptism and start of his ministry when he was thirty years old, an adult.  But that is the scripture in the weeks to come.

We can assume that throughout his teen years and twenty-something years he continued to grow in wisdom, travel down to Jerusalem for Passover, say prayers in the Temple, and offer sacrifices.  The Temple was the place to be because here they would have found God through the holy of holies, a place to practice ritual and study Torah, a place to be in the fellowship of other Jews.  Hopefully Jesus never got lost again and Mary and Joseph came to accept that Jesus would be found in his Father’s [sic] house.

Jesus knew all to well the importance of being in God’s house, that holy sanctuary.  For him it was a place to ‘be in’, or maybe ‘as one’ with God until it was time for his identity to be revealed.  Here he could read Torah to learn how to live, engage the prophets of old to find a sense of direction, or even read one of the Psalms of David to soothe his teenaged soul when things may have gotten rough at home.  You know how that happens when children are teens.

Everyone needs a place to go.  A temple, a sanctuary, a church is still very important today, we all need a place where we can find a refuge from the onslaught of daily living, a safe haven when turmoil knocks at your door, and a place to learn and grow with others in our faith.  We need a place where our children can grow up to be who they are, as they are, created by God with love, a place where they know they will be accepted and cherished.

You have that place here and now, but could it be more?  Could all people feel the safety and solitude that you feel when you enter this sanctuary?  And if they could, how would it be?  How would you make it known to all that this place, this holy ground that we call Wilton Congregational is a place of healing and hope for all people? 

The mentally ill, the young adults with special needs, the mother on some form of welfare, the ethnically, racially different, the gay, the transgendered, the other whomever you determine your other to be?  We don’t typically see them on a Sunday morning in our pews but believe me, they are in our community and its vicinity.

The church doesn’t exist for itself. The church doesn’t exist for the status quo, filling the coffers or those who look and dress like us.  It exists as a lens through which we can see and envision salvation and transformation for each person who crosses our threshold. It exists for everyone and anyone who thirsts to be refreshed by the love of God through Jesus Christ.  The church exists so that people can be healed in the many ways that they are in need of healing and hope.  The church exits to be a place of inclusion rather than exclusion. 

The church exists so that we can get outside of our four walls and engage others whose hopes and dreams are similar to ours but expressed in a different way.  That’s why we exist.  The church exists to tell the Gospel of salvation P E R I O D.

Soon you will prepare to be a church with a new spiritual leader and guide.  He will bring about change because that’s what each new pastor does, not because they try to mark their territory or forge their own path, but because each pastor speaks from his or her own unique experience in God’s created world.  It is always rich and from the heart.

Each pastor has a story to tell of how God has picked them up and dropped them off in a different place of grace.  Each pastor comes to the Gospel by a different path and will tell it in their own words, yet will proclaim the glory of God.  That is the constant in all of this.  God’s glory. 

Jesus proclaimed God’s glory always.  He never looked towards himself but to God. That’s what’s going on in the temple here, he didn’t defy his parents, he was attentive to God’s call upon his life and was bold enough to live it out even from the very beginning.  May we also live out God’s call to us, gathering at church, rejoicing in one another’s differences and then going out into the world with the Gospel in your heart and grace with every step you take. 


Tuesday, December 25, 2012

A Time of Love Incarnate

A Time of Love Incarnate
 Nativity from the Church of the Ascension, Mount of Olives, Jerusalem  2007
It was the darkest of days for Mary and Joseph.  The scorching heat of the summer had given away to colder winds and sunset now came early ushering in deep, lengthy shadows as they traversed the rocky countryside from Nazareth in Galilee to Bethlehem in Judea. 

It was not carefree, easy living under the Roman Empire for most people.  Mary and Joseph, Jews in the first century, were not given many religious rights under King Herod and they were subject to heavy taxation by the Roman authorities.  There was a large disparity between the rich and the poor, and insecure Herod issued a decree to slaughter the lives of the innocent ones.  Life was exceedingly demanding in all ways.  And here was Mary, unwed, young, and with child.  

They needed light.  They needed some luminosity and hope that tomorrow was going to be a better day, that, their God had not forgotten them, that God was not silent in their despair and marginalized circumstances.

And when they could not find a place to stay, forcing them to lodge in a musty animal stall, their baby was born.  “And what was come into being in him [this baby] was life, and the life was the light of all people.  The light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it.” (John 1: 4-5) 

The darkness did not overcome it because this baby was the light of the world, Jesus Christ.  You see the story that you’ve come to hear tonight is so much more than just a sweetened sentimental tale that bears repeating once a year.  It is the story of life born, infused with desire and the promise of resurrection hope.  It is a story of God, and God’s love incarnate in humanity, through Jesus the Christ. It is a story that has meaning each day for your life not just Christmas Eve.  It is a story of God reaching directly into your life and shining grace in all your darkest corners.

Our days are threatening right now.   Not only is this the darkest time of the year but unbelievable events have entered our lives, very close to home, practically in our backyard so that the degrees of separation are hardly existent.  We have questions without answers, or without answers that will satisfy our deepest longing to know and understand the depths of God and our existential nature. 

Why does evil exit?  Why doesn’t God intervene and stop it?  Does God even care?  These real questions we bring with us tonight as we revisit the stable of so long ago.  Mary and Joseph may have asked those same questions.  Even though their faith was strong and their devotedness to God’s call on their lives was palpable, they still had questions.  What if?  How come?  What will become of us?     

When asked why my colleague, the Rev. Matt Crebbin of the Newtown Congregational Church didn’t use the United Church of Christ moniker, “God is still speaking” as a sign of hope in a recent interview,  pensively, Matt said, ‘because for folks God seems distant and silent right now.’  He said, ‘There are no words. Right now is the time for the ministry of incarnation, and that’s what we’re doing’.[i]

How poignant.  He meant that when there are no words that can possibly soothe an aching heart, you can, by your mere presence, be the presence of God to someone who is in need of comfort and hope.  Just by being there!  Because by your presence, and your kindness you are the face and heart of a loving and very present God.   

That is love incarnate. 

That is what Christmas is all about, God’s word, promise, and hope becoming one with us in Jesus Christ.  And then we, extending Christ’s love to others.  “And the word became flesh and lived among us…full of grace and truth.”  (John 1:14)  Theologian Barbara Brown Taylor says, “By choosing Christ to flesh out the word, God made a lasting decision in favor of incarnation…and it is in our own flesh and blood that the word of God continues to be made known.”[ii]

When you see the outpouring of makeshift memorials in Newtown, the 1,000’s of teddy bears collected, the meals cooked and given, the 100’s gathered for a candlelight vigil you can’t help but see that God is all over the place and good hearts triumph over evil ones. That life, even in dire circumstances goes on, because God favors humanity and chooses life.

God’s love embodied, is what is in that stable in Bethlehem.  A newborn cries because God chooses to be with us and God’s greatest desire is for us to carry on in God’s holy name.  God’s love is personified in each one of us.

The manger takes on an especially profound meaning this year.  Christ ‘fleshes out’ for us a way to live that pleases God and that reflects the divine nature of a just and generous God.  The birth of Christ ushers in comfort, redemption and hope.

This tiny Savior-baby is God saying to us, live into your greatest potential.  The borning cries of Jesus beckon you to come out of the darkness of your life into a hopeful future and that is what it is all about.  A future with hope, God has plans for you. (Jer 31)  

So take God’s profound affirmation of love with you tonight out into this world.  Be the face and hands of Jesus to others and in that way the stable, the manger, the stars and the angels become a very real and living nativity of the incarnate God, not some simple story told long ago.

May the peace of God that passes all understanding be in your hearts and minds forever.
Christmas Eve Meditation, 2012

Nativity from Shepherd's Field, Bethlehem, West Bank 2007

[i] Notes from clergy gathering on Dec. 18, 2012 at the Newtown Congregational Church.
[ii] Taylor, Barbara Brown. “The Preaching Life”, Cowley Publications, Cambridge, MA 1993, p.84.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

A meditation

Meditation Given at Wilton Congregational Church for the Newtown shootings

Here we gather, and around us is the scenery and the props for our pageant tomorrow.  Less than one hour ago this holy sanctuary was teeming with excited children reenacting the story of Jesus’ birth.  They laughed and sang and said their memorized lines, sometimes screwing up or forgetting as children do.  And this is the way it should be.

It should not be that children go off to school and do not come home because of one person’s heinous acts of violence.  It should not be that this one person, who still yet almost a child himself, can kill and take away the very hope of life itself; children and the ones who chose to teach and nurture them.

It is not right at all.

The poet T.S. Eliot once said, “Every now and then, life drops an unavoidable question at your door.”  We have now had unavoidable questions dropped right into the lap of our lives. ‘Why now?  Where were you God?  Why did this have to happen?”

But sadly, these difficult questions have no immediate answers that can possibly take away the pain, assuage the grief, or turn back the clock.  There are no words that can make it all better at this very moment.  All we can do is lean heavily into our faith that we will be comforted in time, that these families who were so violently torn apart will receive some sort of peace and maybe a portion of understanding that will help us re-order our lives.

I do not believe that this tragedy was in God’s plan for some higher purpose or that God painted this tragic scene in the lives of these families and ultimately ours to show us a lesson.  That would be a manipulative God that I care not to believe in.  I believe that God loves life, God creates, God does not destroy.  God is for us and not against us.  And I do believe that we can craft out of dreadful circumstances a vision of goodness and grace for us to order our own lives.     

So what do we do with all of this heartache, this intense sadness, this lonely emptiness? Where do you put a pain so deep?’

We can either retreat from life or we can live boldly the future that these children would have embodied.  We can take the smile of a child with us, we can seize the very essence of their living and carry it forward with us into the future.  We can lift up their memory and then commit ourselves to a better future in their name.  

We can remember that God loves us deeply, dearly and that we too will someday be welcomed into the cloud of great witnesses that have gone before us, the cloud that these people have been welcomed into.  We can remember that life is finite; that each day counts immeasurably and that we must tell those whom we care deeply about that we love them over and over again.  

As we sit here with Bethlehem around us we remember that Christ has come into this world to save and to heal, and to comfort us.  That what lies in the manger is hope and salvation and that the beauty of life goes on. 


Friday, December 14, 2012

Newtown, Connecticut December 14, 2012

For the children, teachers, parents, friends of the Newtown community.  May God's strength envelop you in this time of tragedy and may the Spirit of God sustain in this time of need.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Prepare Yourself

Luke 3: 1-6
After Mary left Elizabeth with a song in her heart and her soul rejoicing, she went back to the Galilee.  Both women gave birth to sons; one was named Jesus, the other named John.  The cousins grew and they played, they laughed and they learned, and they became men.

We pick up our scripture from the Gospel of Luke:

In the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was ruler of Galilee, and his brother Philip ruler of the region of Ituraea (i-tyu-re-a) and Trachonitis, and Lysanias ruler of Abilene, during the high-priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. He went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah,
‘The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. 
Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth; 
and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.” ’

Luke posits our scripture in a time and place and with high-faluting people both of the Roman Empire and of the Jewish priesthood.  Yet it is curious (but maybe not) that he chooses not to actually give the message that he needs to tell in Rome or Jerusalem, in places and with people of power, but in the wilderness with a very unique and common sort of guy named John.  
John always appears in Advent, usually about the same week, this second week.  So in the middle of angel’s wings, pre-natal conversations between Mary and Elizabeth, there appears this scruffy, locust eating, camel’s hair wearing, and wilderness living man.  Surely his family must have thought him an outcast, you know that crazy cousin John. How can he be the messenger when he himself is so, well, kooky? 

“Prepare the way of the Lord!” he says, “repent, and be saved”. 

But you see God did choose John to deliver this message, prepare yourself.  Perhaps when you are in the wilderness things become a bit clearer.   When there is no clutter and extraneous things around you are no longer present, you can make ready your heart.  The pathway for decent living and walking in the light of God is by repenting and turning your life around.  He saw this, he knew this because the word of God found him and came to him, yes, in the wilderness. 

John brings us a tough message because repent asks us to look deeply and honestly within ourselves and then to change those things which do not reflect the love of God.  Prepare doesn’t mean to pull out the silver service and shine it up.  It means something quite different.

This time of year I always get asked the question, “Are you ready for Christmas?” which really means, am I prepared?  Have I purchased all of the presents I need to give, have I created a menu for Christmas day, have I attended the parties or sent out the necessary regrets.  It means have I decorated the house and put up the tree, have I decked the halls with boughs of holly?  Have I written my sermon?  To which I say, sure, I’m ready.  

Yet this itchy-scratchy passage pops up in my mind with John’s itchy-scratchy message.  He offers a different definition of how to prepare; prepare by repenting.  So the question “Am I ready?” brings me to another place.  It really means, have I acknowledged the ways in which I may have disparaged others?  Have I considered the ways that I have not used my God-given talents, the ways in which I have utterly failed to help other people less fortunate than myself, or those more fortunate than myself, the way in which my words may have hurt others?  Bottom line: have I recognized and accepted my sins? 

No one wants to talk about sins this time of year, I know?  You’re thinking, ‘Come on Reverend, let’s just sing some Christmas carols, we want to really feel good, drink some wassail and reminisce’.  I know what’s on your minds, I go there too.  And yet, the voice of John lingers, prepare, repent, be saved.   

As we draw closer to Christmas the message is clear that we have to make straight the path for Christ to come.  We have to level the highs of our living and gird up the valleys of our depravity, in order to prepare the way because surely our lives have highs and lows.

Surely there are things that just get in our way from finding and following the path that we are to take.  If you need forgiveness, then ask.  If you are in need of reconciliation, then forge ahead.  If you need rest, then take it.  If you need to clear out and let go, then please, just do it.

Waiting in expectation and longing and yearning.  Clearing out, mapping the safest and most direct route, that’s Advent.  It’s not the frenzy and preparation that begins after Thanksgiving, the decorations, the buying, the parties, the buying, the cookies, the buying, the activities.  This is not Advent.  Advent is not adding on hills and valley’s it’s stripping them away.  It’s simplifying, introspection, and reflecting on God’s grace in your life and preparing for the advent of the real Savior Jesus Christ.

Reclaim this season, this very, very sacred time of year for our own preparation.  If we do not prepare our hearts we will lose the profound impact and the immeasurable influence that the birth of Christ has upon our lives and the world.  How can you see the one light when these flashing electrical lawn displays outshine the greatest light?  How can you make a place for the Savior when your heart is burdened?  Prepare, repent, forgiveness is born. 

Our lives are complicated but Advent is not.  It is hope.  It is faith.  It is having the strength to be, to sit in a barren, empty place and then to prepare to come home again.  It’s knowing that in spite of our best efforts the perfect Christmas will happen.  We have no control over that.  God does.  The incarnation, God revealing Godself in the person of Jesus is the most flawless Christmas ever.  It is a miracle of the most perfect kind.  And it happens without any fanfare when our penitent hearts are uncluttered to receive this gift. Then the hills will be made low and the valleys lifted up.  You will know that the redemption of the world is close at hand.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

What More Do We Need?

Revelation 1: 4-8
There is an old English Proverb that goes like this, “All things must come to an end”.  You’ve probably heard it like spoken that way or maybe with the addition of the word good.  “All good things must come to an end”!  The show, Les Miserable came to an end on Broadway when the stage lights darkened in 2003 and although it survived a revival it finally packed its costume trunks and moved over to the London Theatre.  All good things must come to an end.

The same is true for many other Broadway shows, books on the NY Times Best Sellers list, even television shows.  The soap opera, the Guiding Light, its suds vanished after 72 years of radio and television broadcasts.   Sports teams have winning streaks, bull markets disperse dividends, bottles of wine finally are emptied and boxes of chocolate covered strawberries are devoured leaving only the frilly paper cups with merely a hint of the summer’s sweet bounty.  Ah yes, all things must come to an end, even Cinderella had to go home at the stroke of midnight.

Today is one of those days in the liturgical calendar year.  It’s an ending, it’s The Reign of Christ Sunday, which concludes 52 weeks of readings from the Revised Common Lectionary and has taken us from Advent last year through Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, Pentecost and Ordinary Time.  It represents 52 weeks of hearing about Jesus life and learning about his ministry and then we wind up at the beginning.

Traversing the liturgical year is kind of like reading to a child her favorite book and just as soon as you say, ‘the end’, you’re your heart leaps for joy that it really is the end of this book that you have read umpty-nine times, the dear little one yells out, ‘again, again’ and of course you start all over from the beginning.  It was St. Benedict of Nursia who said in his monastic rule, “Always we begin again.”

For a Bible geek such as myself it’s fun and exciting to be able to change the color of my stole with the church seasons and to recognize the continuation of Christ’s life in mine.  Sometimes those changes come pretty quickly like, last week was green, this week white, the next two weeks purple, throw in a pink and a follow up purple back to white and then to green…all of this will happen by mid January. 

For those of us believers you see there really is a beginning when an ending occurs.  No liturgical season leaves us with a cliffhanger, they all evolve into something more beautiful, something more insightful or redeeming.  Always we begin again.  But before we flip the calendar to Advent let’s hover a few minutes on this Reign of Christ Sunday and what this awesome claim means for our lives.

It’s not too often that we read from the Book of Revelation.  Probably a good thing.  It’s rather scary with its images and predictions.   Yet there are some exquisite passages in this book.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away…and I saw new Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God...he will wipe away every tear…and death will be no more…for the first things have passed away”. (Rev 21:1-4)  So often this passage is of great comfort for people who are mourning the death of a loved one. 

Or another passage, “On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.  (Rev 22:2) 

So hopeful, so healing which is just what the early Christians living during the reign of the Roman Emperor Domitian for Christians living in Asia Minor. Now there is not much known about his short reign except to say he was a micro manager of the Empire’s economy and it was expected that the Roman Empire would be worshipped, and Domitian was "Lord."

You can begin to see the challenge for Christians who were trying to live out their faith in Jesus as ‘Lord’ and not the establishment’s vision of empire and kingdom.  They needed hope.  They needed to hear a voice of confident proclamation.

Hear now today’s passage from the first chapter:

John to the seven churches that are in Asia:

Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.

To him who loves us and freed us from our sins by his blood, and made us to be a kingdom, priests serving his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen. 
Look! He is coming with the clouds; every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and on his account all the tribes of the earth will wail. 
So it is to be. Amen.

‘I am the Alpha and the Omega’, says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.   Amen.

Always Christians have had a difficult time living in the world because of the nature of Christ and our specific summons to obedience, to justice, to love, to truth that Jesus calls us to.  He, himself, did not have an easy time living in a world dominated by oppressive political systems.  When Jesus was brought before Pontius Pilate he was asked, ‘are you King of the Jews?’ to which Jesus answers, ‘my kingdom is not from this world’.  And again Pilate asks, ‘so, Jesus, are you a king?’ to which Jesus concedes, ‘you say that I am’.  Finally he did not deny his identity, who he really was.

Jesus tells the truth about himself at the end of his earthly life, not that he ever lied, he did not.  He chose to keep the truth shrouded until the right time to reveal his truth; that he is not from this world, that he is other worldly.   That his kingdom is not a dominating, tax-collecting, democracy starved kingdom, it is one in which peace and wholeness is dominant within us and within the forces of the world.  It is God’s peace, which passes all human understanding, that his reign and his kingdom is all about.  It is God’s kingdom that Jesus reveals in his truth telling moment.

So to answer the question must all good things come to an end?  Is this all there is?  Must the life and ministry of Christ end today with the triumphant reign of Christ?  The answer is no.  “As always we begin again.”  Revelation tells us that Christ is the Alpha and Omega.  When Jesus said that he was not suggesting that his life is finite -what he does mean is that there is totality and wholeness in him. 

His life and essence is a circuitous path that continually reminds us of the way in which God has intervened in the world and that the fullness of what life and death has to offer is accomplished in Jesus.  He who is, who was, and who is to come.  This is Christian Doctrine at its finest.

We can talk about doctrine but unless it doesn’t move you then so what?  Let’s talk about how you are spiritually moved by knowing Jesus, what are the ways that you would describe yourself being spiritually motivated as a Christian? How does your faith unearth and uplift you to feel a deeper connection to God for that is what spirituality means.

How do the stories and the life events of Jesus bring you closer to God and move you to a different place? 

When Mary heard that she was to bear a child in the direst of conditions might we not understand that God too will send a spark of life within us that will pull us up and out of the ominous places from our lives?  (Christmas)

When the Kings from the East followed that star might we not also understand that when we feel like we are completely outside and left behind that God will shine some light somewhere so that we can see clearly the path that we need to take to get home once again?  (Epiphany) 

When we put on the sackcloth and ashes and journey towards the Passion of Christ, that is his suffering and death might we not also understand that there will be times where we will have to deal with adversity, surrender our life and empty ourselves and our selfish ways in order to know that we are totally dependent on God for our every need?  (Lent) 

When Mary discovers an empty tomb and encounters the Risen Christ might we not see that our own spiritual suffering and possibly even death result in life once again, life renewed and infused with joy and God’s love.  (Easter)

When the disciples were gathered and locked up tight in that upper room and the wind of the spirit flew in and lighted upon their heads might not we understand that there is no where on earth that we can go that God will not also be and give us understanding to deal with the scariest circumstances of our lives? (Pentecost) 

When we hear the stories of blind Bartemaus or the Samaritan woman at the well, or the Parable of the Prodigal Son might we not believe that when we feel like we are the untouchables and that no one possibly cares for us we can believe that God is there to protect us and that healing will occur in the least probable places and times?  (Ordinary Time) 

All of these stories of Jesus, all 52 weeks of them enable our spirit to be lifted so that we can feel a connection with God and find truth and meaning in our lives.

Christ is the Alpha and Omega, the one who was, who is and who is to come.  He is the story of God’s love never ending.  Must all good things come to an end?  No!  “Always we begin again.”

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Heaven Knows!

Matthew 6:25-33
It was around Thanksgiving many years ago when I met a woman who lived in one of the Bridgeport shelters.  Alice was her name and Alice had come with the social worker to the church where I was working to pick up coats that we had collected for distribution.  After loading up the van Alice and I sat down for a cup of coffee and she began to tell me how much she appreciated the coats.

Her gratitude was overwhelming.  She kept saying over and over again, ‘you don’t know how thankful I am for this gift, you don’t know, you just don’t know how thankful I am for these coats. You know it’s supposed to get real cold this winter and you just don’t know how thankful I am.’

Later in the day I was thinking about our conversation.  She was spot on!  I don’t know.  I didn’t have a clue as to what it is like to not have a winter coat, or a roof over my head.  I don’t know what it is like to be homeless. I don’t know what it is like to be down to my last buck and having to rely on the shelter and the outpouring of others for my daily bread.  I don’t, at least in this moment, have these sorts of worries.  And I am thankful for that.

My life was blessed that day by Alice’s gratitude and thanks.  She ministered to me in a way that opened my eyes to God’s extraordinary benevolence in my life, for the way in which God zooms in and in unexpected ways helps to relieve me of my worries and concerns.  You see none of us are exempt from worry.  We just worry about different things.  She modeled for me a way in which I should be thanking God for my life.

Our text this morning finds Jesus in the upper Galilee, sitting on the grassy hillside with his disciples and hundreds of others.  Now these were not rich people.  They were fishers and farmers, those who struggled hard to put pita on the table.  They didn't have 401K's, or even checking accounts.  They too, had a lot to worry about; much that would keep them up at night. 

So Jesus begins to talk to this gathered group.  “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”. (Matt 5:3)  Jesus has begun his Sermon up there on the Mount.  He continues his discourse interpreting and reinterpreting Judaic law.  He makes it plain and simple for these hard working folk.  “You are the salt of the earth”, (Matt 5:13); “You are the light of the world.” (Matt 5:14), “Give to everyone who begs from you”, (Matt 5:42), “Love your enemies”, (Matt 5:44), “Pray like this…Our Father in Heaven”, (Matt 6:9), “No one can serve two masters”, (Matt 6:24) and then Jesus says, “THEREFORE”.

Therefore do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, or about your body and what you put on it.  Heaven knows!  The big One up there in heaven knows exactly what you need and I’d add also what you want but that’s a whole other sermon.  If heaven can make sure that the little sparrows are fed without human intervention, and if heaven can expend all that energy to grow those stunningly gorgeous lilies and sunflowers that will wither and die tomorrow then don’t you think that your God in heaven knows what you need to live your life? 

Of course.  Of course heaven knows.

Jesus does not turn a blind eye to his followers concerns and worries.  He accepts them, in fact he embraces them, that’s what his life and his work and his ministry are also about. His human nature is in full gear; he knows all too well about the human capacity for excessive worry.  He knows exactly what we are about, he’s on to us!

Thursday – Thanksgiving Day – it’s a day for gratitude and goodies.  We will gather together to ask the Lord’s blessings around the Thanksgiving table. It will be warm, it will be satisfying, and we might feel as if we are the most blessed people on this planet without a care in this world.

Yet we know that’s not entirely the truth.  The Thanksgiving table is not only a place with fancy-schmancy decorations and flowers, succulent turkey, stuffing, pie and enumerating all of the good things about your life.  The Thanksgiving table is also the place we will bring our worries and concerns – you know how they follow us everywhere like catalogs that annoyingly arrive in the mail every fifteen minutes.

The Thanksgiving table is a place where you can recognize those worries, perhaps even give voice to them and then express your gratitude to God.  It’s a place where you can just look up to heaven and scream out thanks in total surrender! 

Cast all your burdens on the Lord and then say thanks!  Thank you God.  Thanks God for picking me up from that ally way, what was I thinking?  Thank you God for having my back.  Thank you God that my child didn’t get any sicker, thank you God that when that tree fell on my house I wasn’t hurt and I still have my house to live in. Thank you God.

I am reading Anne Lamott’s newest book, “Help, Thanks, Wow: Three Essential Prayers”.  In it she says, ‘You breathe in gratitude, and you breathe it out, too’.  She says…. ‘My general-purpose go-to mystic Rumi said, “There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.”’[i]

She’s right.  She takes it us to the next level of gratitude.  We can express our gratitude to God for all those pick me ups, all of those close calls, all of those reprieves from a potentially bad situation, we can express our gratitude in so many more ways than solely around the proverbial Thanksgiving table once a year.  There really is more than one way to kiss the ground and there is more than one way to say thanks. 

We breathe in gratitude and when we breathe out our gratitude there is no other alternative than to put that gratitude into action.  Thank you God, now what can I do to help you out?  What can I do to help other people?  Heaven knows, the world does not lack for opportunities for us to give God gratitude and thanks way beyond Thanksgiving Day.  ‘A Day of Service’ that Kevin talked about is just one of them.

That’s the real gift of Thanksgiving.  It opens our eyes to the blessings we have and the blessing that we can be to others.

So on Thursday after we have given thanks to God for hearth and home, family and friends, let us also give thanks to God for knowing deeply and intimately our every worry and fear, our every anxiety and pain and for the reassurance that heaven knows all about them.  

Let us then resolve to exhale our profound gratitude in this world through our actions.  Thanks God.  No Really, Thanks!

[i] Anne Lamott, ‘Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers’. Penguin Books, 2012. 

Monday, November 12, 2012

Trust and All Will Be Well

Ruth 3: 1-5; 4: 13-17
Ruth the Gleaner by Marc Chagall
As you know, I recently, very recently acquired a daughter-in-law and I became a mother-in-law.  After a decade of dating my son, she and I have entered into a new relationship so this story of Ruth and Naomi is rather timely.  Ironically though, I find myself reflecting upon my relationship with my former mother-in-law, Addie, more so.  My daughter-in-law and son are still on their honeymoon so I have a short reprieve before we begin anew. 

You see my relationship with Addie was never completely horrible per se, but there were some kinks, some challenging incidents that happened over the years like the time she announced our third pregnancy to the Town of Fairfield in her article, “Once Over Lightly” for the Fairfield Citizen-News, way before we had told anyone.  She wrote often about our children publically and it wasn’t always in the best vain although she was humorous, or so she thought. 

There were other times too when she really overstepped her boundaries like the time she tried to call the Fairfield Police because she thought someone had broken into our house and stole her reading glasses.

My own mother said I was going to be a saint when I died for all that she put us through.  Ironically though, when my mother died, and I was divorced from her son, Addie became more of a mother figure to me providing help with the children - although she did once dress our first son as a girl - and her carefree, Italian attitude towards life picked me up on more than one occasion.  Ah yes, mothers and daughters-in-law!  It’s complicated.

Last week Doug introduced us to Ruth and Naomi and their loyal in-law relationship with one another.  Naomi loses her husband, tragically her sons die too, and so she prepares to go back to the land of her ancestors in Bethlehem.  Widows lived on the edge of survival, the margins; they were the ‘untouchables’ of the ancient near east.  She was blessed in that her daughters-in-law, Orpah and Ruth, set out to go with her.

But at a certain point Naomi encourages them to go back to the land of Moab.  She knows that she has nothing to offer them in the way of stability or riches even in Bethlehem. Orpah returns but Ruth does not and says, “Where you go, I will go; where you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God.”  Naomi accepted Ruth’s insistence to stay and they return together to Bethlehem in Judah and back to her kinsman, Boaz.  A very rich man whose compassion for Naomi and Ruth is remarkable.

Today we continue on in the Book of Ruth, third chapter,

Naomi her mother-in-law said to her, ‘My daughter, I need to seek some security for you, so that it may be well with you. Now here is our kinsman Boaz, with whose young women you have been working. See, he is winnowing barley tonight at the threshing-floor. Now wash and anoint yourself, and put on your best clothes and go down to the threshing-floor; but do not make yourself known to the man until he has finished eating and drinking. When he lies down, observe the place where he lies; then, go and uncover his feet and lie down; and he will tell you what to do.’ She said to her, ‘All that you tell me I will do.’

So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife. When they came together, the Lord made her conceive, and she bore a son. Then the women said to Naomi, ‘Blessed be the Lord, who has not left you this day without next-of-kin; and may his name be renowned in Israel! He shall be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age; for your daughter-in-law who loves you, who is more to you than seven sons, has borne him.’ Then Naomi took the child and laid him in her bosom, and became his nurse. The women of the neighborhood gave him a name, saying, ‘A son has been born to Naomi.’ They named him Obed; he became the father of Jesse, the father of David. Amen.
The Gleaners by Jean-Francois Millet
And you think modern day in-law relationships are complex!  At least we don’t have the overlay of the levirite marriage laws that mandate the brother of a deceased man marry his brother’s widow, which was the norm in the Ancient Near East. In spite of this dreadful law though, the Book of Ruth shows us that in-law relationships can be filled with selfless love, devotion and care.  And that there can be compassionate people living within a bad system.

I am well aware that you may have never heard such words of scripture from this pulpit, this meeting at the threshing floor and lying at someone’s feet; it sounds perhaps like some cheap and sordid romance novel.  But in order to comprehend, if we possibly can, God’s mighty hand in the grander scheme of things we need to look at how it can be accomplished through human lives in every day, ordinary experiences and these were the experiences of Ruth and Naomi.  Plus…it’s the recommended lectionary reading for today, so lucky me!

Without a doubt, Naomi worked the system. She was a woman living in a man’s world. She knew the law and she was wise.  She orchestrated a prosperous and safe future for Ruth first by sending her out to Boaz’s fields to glean the leftover grain, and then encouraging her to sleep with him and produce offspring.  And Naomi, by becoming the wet nurse for their child, secured her place as well.  Boaz and Ruth wed and they named their son Obed.

And Obed, became the father of Jesse, the father of David, the greatest Israelite king of all times, and from the house and lineage of King David comes Jesus, many generations later.  Ruth, a foreigner, Ruth, a widow, Ruth, who was just about as down and out on her luck as she possibly could get, had no idea that when she lay with Boaz she would be a direct descendant of Jesus.   There was a larger scheme in play.

Ruth trusted.  She trusted with all of her heart that sticking by Naomi’s side was the right thing to do for her own survival and for her devotion to Naomi. She displayed courage in a time of uncertainty and faithfulness to the one who cared for her the most at a really terrible time in her life. 

I want to talk with you today about trust because I’m sure that there have been times in your life or even in the life of this congregation that you have had to trust in what is to come; that you have had to trust in something that you could not yet quite vision. 

Trust - that a child going off to college will be all right and figure out that he could do his own laundry and can make good decisions.  Trust - that when you put your father into a nursing home that his welfare will be the utmost thing on the aids and workers minds.  Trust - that when given a diagnosis the doctor will proceed with the right course of action for your health and well-being.  Trust - that with every ending comes a beginning and that that beginning will be grander than what was. 

Trust takes almost all of our being to believe that an outcome will be good for us even if we don’t quite know what it will be and even if it was not something that we had planned on.

But there is responsibility – you will still need to call your son each week – you will still need to check up on your father in the nursing home – you will need to follow the course of action that the doctor prescribed – you will still need to prepare your heart and mind for a new beginning. 

Ruth trusted that sleeping with Boaz was the right thing to do and my friends, that’s a real tall order.  But she believed Naomi and she trusted that Naomi would take care of her in any way that she possibly could.  I also believe that she had a deep faith in God, remember before when she said, “Your God will become my God”.

Because of faith you can trust in your future.  “Trust is the practical outworking of faith: it is when we trust God that we show our faith in God (sic) Him) is real.[i]”  And we know God is always in our corner, has got our back, and is our own private cheering section.
Tomorrow my son and daughter-in-law return from their honeymoon.  A new chapter will begin.  I trust that God will guide us to a clear understanding of this new relationship.  The future is ahead of you too.  May God increase your faith and trust that ‘all things will work together for the good.’ (Romans 8:28)
Rev. Suzanne E. Wagner
Wilton Congregational Church

[i] Ben Edington, 2004.  “Trust in the Lord with All of Your Heart”.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

No Arm Twisting, Please!

2 Corinthians 9: 6-8
You’ve guessed it by now.  This is the annual sermon on, and about, money and giving.  And like I said last year…even though Jesus talked a lot about financial responsibility coupled with moral imperative, it is a myth that we, in the church, only talk money from the pulpit.  This is just one sermon out of 52 or it’s a mere 1.9% of the time to be exact, that we will talk about money.  So please don’t go away thinking that’s all the church ever talks about.  Because you see it is not.

It is interesting to note however that if Jesus were in this pulpit out of the 39 parables that are attributed to Jesus, 11 of them are concerned with money, or ‘treasures’.  In fact he talked more about money than heaven or hell combined.  And it is not that he talked about us prospering or protecting our investments, rather his take on this ‘kingdom of God’ is that we should take what we need and then give away a healthy portion of it to help those in need; feed, clothe and house disadvantaged people.  Money is not a bad thing, the handling of it though is what matters to him.

So let’s set the stage for the scripture that we just heard.  Here is Paul the missionary who made his way to Corinth to begin a church.  When he left he had promised to come and visit them again but he changed his mind so he writes a letter to them.  In it he explains why he changed his mind and to encourage them to be generous to other Christians like  the Macedonians who were poor people and were in need. 

I am convinced that Paul did not have an easy life and he definitely was tenacious in character.  He was never afraid, and was always encouraging people to give to the church so that they poor among them could be fed.  He knew what he believed and he wasn’t afraid to share with others no matter the cost.  I like how Eugene Peterson has reframed the passage from 2 Corinthians:

Remember: A stingy planter gets a stingy crop; a lavish planter gets a lavish crop. I want each of you to take plenty of time to think it over, and make up your own mind what you will give. That will protect you against sob stories and arm-twisting. God loves it when the giver delights in the giving.  God can pour on the blessings in astonishing ways so that you’re ready for anything and everything, more than just ready to do what needs to be done. Amen!
                                                                       The Message – 2 Corinthians 9: 6-8

Peterson gets down to the basics, no candy coating it, if you are stingy that’s what will come back to you but if you are generous, lavish even then that is what you will reap.  Basically, you get what you pay for.  Then he says, think about that analogy and make up your own mind as to what you will give.  We really don’t want to do any arm-twisting, Lyle Heimbaugh, notwithstanding!

God loves it when the giver delights in the giving.  How wonderful a phrase is that, too imagine God absolutely enthralled when you feel really good with what you have given?  Don’t give till it hurts…..give till it feels good.  Really good for you; God will be delighted.  God will be tickled pink.  God loves a cheerful giver.  And you will be blessed. 

There was a family once who joined a church.  They hadn’t much been church goers so the concept of pledging was somewhat foreign to them.  They really didn’t have much and their children were eligible for reduced price lunches in the public school.  They were living hand to mouth.  But through other peoples examples of giving at the church they began to see that they would not go hungry because of their pledge, that God would ultimately bless their generous efforts.  It wasn’t the size of their gift, it was the faith and trust in giving. 

Another family had a stable and higher than average income. They had pledged in the past but had become a bit disgruntled by the handling of particular fund and so they decided to withhold their pledge rather than speak out about their unhappiness.  Issues come and issue go in churches, we all know that. But the mission of the church, as directed by God through Jesus Christ never changes. 

I suppose what they did was one way to try influence change but what about what God has called us to do?  What about the personal call to be generous with the gifts you have been given by God? What about the spiritual imperative that is placed on all of us; to give as we are able? As Archbishop Robert Carlson of the Archdiocese of St. Louis says, “God expects us to take what has been given to us…to nurture and develop our gifts and to return them with increase.”[i]   There are no caveats really.      

This family eventually found that their commitment to church life felt flat and their spiritual engagement was missing something and so they began to give again.  One of the Proverbs tells us, “Some give freely, yet grow all the richer; others withhold what is due, and only suffer want.  A generous person will be enriched, and one who gives water will get water.” (Proverbs 11: 24-25)

To pledge and to give is important on many levels.  It helps us be fiscally responsible to this structure and grounds of this church, it provides for creative ways to worship our God who walks with us in this journey we call life.  And it engages our faith outside of these walls through missional outreach. 

Above all of that it is a mark of faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

I have pledged again this year, a total of ______ and I have increased my pledge by 4%.  That’s roughly giving up two latte’s from Starbuck’s a month even thought I’m not a Starbuck’s fan.  It’s doable.

I believe in the church.  I believe in this church.  I believe in the transformative power that each dollar contains for the transformation of this world.

And mostly why I give is that I love God with my heart, all of it.  I walk out in trust that when you receive my monthly withdrawal it will be used to enact the Gospel of Jesus Christ, yes in the electric, yes the maintenance of this building, yes in the giving of ourselves to one another, yes so that we really can feed people, and provide for them while they cannot and yes, worship and love God with our whole hearts. 

Please join me in pledging this year.

Remember: A stingy planter gets a stingy crop; a lavish planter gets a lavish crop. I want each of you to take plenty of time to think it over, and make up your own mind what you will give. That will protect you against sob stories and arm-twisting. God loves it when the giver delights in the giving.


[i] St Clare of Assisi, Adult Intention Card.  The Most Reverend Robert J. Carlson.  Archbishop of the Archdiocese of St. Louis, Missouri. 2012.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Through the Air

Hebrews 11: 1-3, 8-16

Have you ever just walked out in faith?
Has there ever been a time when you forged ahead on a ‘wing and a prayer’ knowing that you have put your very being in God’s hands, without a clue as to how it would turn out?  You just knew that you must and somehow ‘every little thing’s gonna be alright’.

Welcome to my world as an interim minister!  That’s more or less what we do.  We work real hard to put ourselves out of a ‘job’ trusting that God has been working equally as hard to ready another church for our specialized ministry.

Crazy huh??  Today’s sermon is about walking, going maybe even flying out in faith trusting with all of your heart that you will be caught in God’s very capable hands.

Faith!  Particularly Christian faith is a bit hard to explain to someone who does not believe.  They might think we are crazy, some of the things that we do in complete faith that God will take care of us, that we will not be left flapping in the breeze.
The Letter to the Hebrews is a rather forceful book about faith.  It attempts to explain what faith is all about for these ‘new Christians’.  You see both Jews and Gentiles had questions about this religion of the early Christians.  The author attempts to explain that it has its beginnings in the Jewish religion but that it is different.  The primary difference being of course, Jesus Christ and his unorthodox sense and view of Torah, or the law.

Hear now today’s word from the Epistle to the Hebrews from the Contemporary English Version: 

Faith makes us sure of what we hope for and gives us proof of what we cannot see. It was their faith that made our ancestors pleasing to God.

Because of our faith, we know that the world was made at God’s command. We also know that what can be seen was made out of what cannot be seen.

Abraham had faith and obeyed God. He was told to go to the land that God had said would be his, and he left for a country he had never seen.  Because Abraham had faith, he lived as a stranger in the promised land. He lived there in a tent, and so did Isaac and Jacob, who were later given the same promise. Abraham did this, because he was waiting for the eternal city that God had planned and built.

Even when Sarah was too old to have children, she had faith that God would do what he had promised, and she had a son. Her husband Abraham was almost dead, but he became the ancestor of many people. In fact, there are as many of them as there are stars in the sky or grains of sand along the beach.

Every one of those people died. But they still had faith, even though they had not received what they had been promised. They were glad just to see these things from far away, and they agreed that they were only strangers and foreigners on this earth. Amen!

Faith.  It is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. 

You see God told Abraham to get up and go, to grab his wife Sarah, pack up their camels and tents and head on off.  Where?  Abraham had no clue.  But he did have faith and we know that faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

And Sarah, bless her heart following Abraham all around God’s earth, she was elderly when she finally became pregnant.  Remember?  She LOL’d, laughed out loud when she heard the news that finally, after all these barren years, she was going to have a baby.  But she eventually believed and relied on her faith that all would be ok, and we know that faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

By faith they both went, and were blessed. 

I want to share with you a parable that I love and read and think about often.  It is a parable not from the Bible but one that was written by Henri Nouwen, a priest and theologian who has since passed away.  It is called the Parable of the Flyer and the Catcher.

“A Flyer and a Catcher enter the circus ring and greet the audience with smiles and movements that cause their wide silver capes to swirl about them. They pull themselves up into the large net and start to climb rope ladders to positions high up in the big tent.  As the Flyer swings away from the pedestal board, she somersaults and turns freely in the air, only to be safely grasped by the Catcher.”
Like Jesus, Nouwen explains his parable…

“The Flying Rodleighs are trapeze artist who perform in the German circus Simoneit-Barum.  When the circus came to Freiburg a few years ago, my friends invited me and my father to see the show.  I will never forget how enraptured I became when I saw the Rodleighs move through the air, flying and catching each other as elegant dancers.  The next day I returned to the circus to see them again and introduced myself to them to them as one of their great fans.  They invited me to attend their practice sessions, gave me free tickets, asked me to dinner, and suggested that I travel with them for a week through Germany.

I certainly was “hooked” by the Rodleighs and felt driven to see them perform again and again and to enter deeply into their world. One day I was sitting with Rodleigh, the leader of the troupe, in his caravan, talking about flying.  He said, “As a flyer, I must have complete trust in my catcher.  The public might think that I am the great star of the trapeze, but the real star is Joe, my catcher.  He has to be there for me with split-second precision and grab me out of the air as I come to him in the long jump.”  “How does it work?” I asked.  “The secret,” Rodleigh said, “is that the flyer does nothing and the catcher does everything.  When I fly to Joe, I have simply to stretch out my arms and hands and wait for him to catch me and pull me safely up.”

“You do nothing!” I said, surprised.

“Nothing,” Rodleigh repeated.  “The worst thing the flyer can do is try to catch the catcher.  I am not supposed to catch Joe.  It’s Joe’s task to catch me.  If I grab Joes wrists, I might break them, or he might break mine, and that would be the end of both of us.  A flyer must fly, and a catcher my catch, and the flyer must trust, with outstretched arms, that his catcher will be there for him.” [i]

Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
I take three lessons from Nouwen’s parable and his explanation.

1)       You have to leave the platform.  I can only imagine what it would be like to grab the bar of the ropes and take off, into the air swinging back and forth.  And yet, leaving the platform is essential to the act, to the performance, to what comes ahead. If you never leave you will never be able to soar.

2)    You have to actively participate in the act.  You see the     
        flyer has to gain momentum while in the air swinging back and forth and readies  
        his body and mind to let go.  Too me it looks like it
        takes physical strength and a fully engaged mind. 

3)       You have got to trust that you will be caught.  Once
you have left the platform and readied yourself all you have to do is fly with your arms outstretched.  God will do the rest.  It may sound easy but this is the greatest test.  Believing that God will do the rest.  This is faith.

Faith is what life is all about.  Living fully, taking good risks knowing with all of your heart that God will be waiting to catch you and bring you up onto the platform on the other side of the tent.  God never fails us therefore you will not fail either.

Let us fly through the air with the greatest of ease, like daring young men and women on the flying trapeze.


[i] Nouwen, Henri.  ‘Spiritual Direction: Wisdom for the Long Walk of Faith’. Ed Michael J. Christensen and Rebecca J. Laird. HarperCollins, NY, 2006.